Hi! Welcome to Spelunk-A-Story, where I'll be reviewing my favorite sci-fi/fantasy novel series (and some of my not-so-favorite series) from a writer's standpoint to determine what makes them great. I'll be exploring all the nooks and crannies of each story, shining light on their darkest secrets and brightest moments, to help other authors and myself craft better books. To the Book Cave!
Well, folks, I've finished, extensively edited and published my novel, The Pathos of Rowan Jun, on Kindle. Find the final, finished version here. It's a big, scary step that took a lot of work, aggravation, and hair-pulling that I told about here, on my Tamara Henson Studios entry about self-publishing. The perfectionist in me knows that there are always improvements to be made. So I'm still reviewing my favorite, best books to see how my story stands up to the awesomeness of past series I have purchased.
MY HISTORY WITH THIS BOOK:
My job back in 2004 was boring, almost mindlessly simple. Getting paid equals good. Being bored equals not good. Larry, a coworker and downright precious human being with awesome long hair, a quick wit and a nerd level that surpassed even mine brought me books to pass the time. I read most of the original Dungeons and Dragons comic book thanks to him, now that I think about it. :D He asks if I like dark fantasy. I cringe at fantasy but was suckered in by "dark". So he brought me the first three-book-collection of the Elric Saga. And a couple days later, he had to bring me the second three-book-collection that finalized the core series.
The world and physics are incredibly complex, hinging on two constants: the concepts of inter-dimensional travel via the multiverse, and the Eternal Champion-- different versions of the same person born in many different dimensions and linked together in the eternal battle between Chaos and Law. *sigh* This one may give me a headache... Elric is one facet of the Eternal Champion. He's the thin-blooded albino emperor of an old civilization who artificially maintains his strength with drugs. His fatal flaw in his society? A conscience. Yep. To those he rules, that's a weakness even worse than his physical issues. Yet he's a super-special-awesome-powerful-sorcerer who calls on magic, elementals, spirits, and even the Lords of Chaos to aid him. And dragons... And then boy meets sword, and it's all downhill from there... And ALL awesome!
[THERE MAY BE SPOILERS AHEAD]
RESONANCE-- WHAT I REMEMBER:
Elric's story isn't intended for teens, per se. There is violence and lots of it, plus the writing style is very dense. But Elric's conscience is the driving force in a very internalized type of story. And with great conscience comes great running away! That's right... Enter the catalyst for an epic quest to save all existence! Or destroy all existence...
1. *sigh* My first what-the-heck-and-WHY? moment involved what I call the Sword Sphincter, or "The Pulsing Cavern", where Elric quests to retrieve the fated twin rune-blades that will end or save the world... Stormbringer and Mournblade! (No one has ever given weapons more bad-ass names. I challenge you to prove me wrong!) Also, the "singing" black blades suck out your soul and use your life force for energy, sending the wielder into a blood rage of power...
2. After he accidentally kills his betrothed with Stormbringer (Oops! No soul for her!), Elric leads the Young Kingdoms in the destruction of Imrryr, the only surviving city of his empire. Why? He thinks it was time to put an end to the horrible atrocity of their existence.
3. A point of contention: Why is Elric such a passionate, energetic lover if he can barely walk when the effect of his drugs runs low? Hmph. Just a curiosity...
4. I have decided that the concepts of Elric's world, the epic resonance, the single character of Elric, and the swords are all that really matter to me. It's what I took from the whole thing. And that's okay by me. The story is as expected: Quest, quest, quest, epic battle for creation, end of battle... And then the end happens. But I don't want to tell you the end! I won't tell you the end! You go cheat and read it on Wikipedia. But I'll not ruin it!
SPELUNK THE STORY-- ANALYSIS DURING THE RE-VISIT:
Now this is where I determine what works specifically in this story, so we can all go hand-in-hand down the narrow road toward writing success!
1. The writing is dense, oftentimes superfluous, and verbose. His vocabulary trumps my vocabulary by a long shot. Sometimes it sinks into a dull drone and I say "Wake me up when we get to the plot!" Don't get me wrong. The writing is good. The story is woven so thoroughly into my mind that those words had to be the reason why. I'm gonna blame two things here: My attention span is different from when I first read this. (Less disposable time, too.) AND the cultural differences in location and time period led the man to write very good prose as opposed to simply marketable prose. (I cringe and compare the well-composed writing in Harry Potter to the Sparkle-Stalker-Swill in Twilight.)
And then there's the dialogue. Boy, do we know we're in a different world! It's unnatural, forced, flowery, overly ceremonial sounding (when there's no ceremony going on) and everyone talks like that. It's as if everyone has the same voice. I can't even bring myself to cite examples. It will suffice to say that the dialogue lends itself to rereading, oftentimes more than once, to get the meaning.
Elric's internal musings eventually just sound like a soul-wounded teenager struggling through the void of life-wrenching nothingness that has arisen to drag them down into the depths of Hell! Yes. Elric's an emo kid. At least he has real reasons for those musings. I let him off the hook, in that case.
2. Like Dragonsong in my previous post, the Elric Saga follows a formulaic plot. It's that epic fantasy underdog unlikely unwilling destined hero fighting for the fate of the universe plot. Things happen in a villain-of-the-week kind of way, and then the story ends leaving you feeling kind of forlorn. The ending doesn't have to be happy or sad. It just has to be justified by events and world-knowledge available in the text. But it's okay, because the physics explain away that forlorn feeling. If two stories equal a pattern, then let it be known that most fiction is formulaic!
3. The sorcery is thoroughly described and palpable, which is a rare thing in fantasy. The "science" of it is justifiable and based on pacts with inter-dimensional beings. I still randomly shout "Blood and souls for my Lord Arioch!"
4. Because of all these books and their good demonstrations of the logic of inter-dimensional travel, I find myself discussing the multiverse like it's a possibility rather than a loose, unsupported theory. :) I hate when a story paradox isn't explained in some way. With Moorcock's multiverse, as far-fetched as it tends to be, I feel as if I understand it.
5. The multiverse theory is a PERFECT way to bring in legends, myths and anything else you wanna pull out of your rear to tell the most varied story possible. And for even more plausibility, you'll just slap an archaic or original name on that legend, myth or story and voila! It'll slip right past all but the most learned readers. And those will either scoff at your efforts or applaud your ingenuity, smug in the fact that they "got it." "Getting it" took me out of the story completely. That's why this review is kinda sparse. I like to drift in this world, to see where it'll take me, and I'd like you to do the same.
1. I don't want to write in his style. I have a very sparse style that doesn't lend itself well to integrating his methods. I do love reading his work. I believe it's good exercise for my brain. His level of epic demands such a style, though. As I said before, I value his concepts, Elric himself, the epic resonance, and the swords. All other things fall away.
2. Formulaic plotting works, if the formula is strong and the characters and worlds are awesome. I feel like Elric makes the story. The words just tell us things about him. And that is a lesson in great character development! Maybe all those internal monologues are to blame...
3. Elric is an emo kid who REALLY has the weight of the universe on his shoulders, so it's okay that he dwells a bit. Whiny with no reason would kill the story and credibility.
4. Not much changes regarding common terminology. An emperor is still an emperor. A throne (albeit made of one big ruby) is still just a throne. Elric's story is not taking place on another planet. It's just down the moonbeam roads, if you know where to go. Another dimension. And we're attached to it. It's a great storytelling device already, so there's no need to change basic terminology. A day's a day. A sword's a sword... unless that sword is Stormbringer!
5. Flowery dialogue is the single-most disconcerting thing about the books.
6. A Sword Sphincter by any other name is still just a Sword Sphincter!
I welcome your comments and novel-review suggestions! Thanks for reading. Until next time, "Blood and souls for my Lord Arioch!"
|2nd Shelf, Middle: Begins my Elric stash|